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What will be the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games?

09 December 2010

With less than 600 days to go until the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, research suggests that plans for the Games will leave a legacy, but not the new wave of mass participation in sport that is hoped for.

Following unique research conducted by Canterbury Christ Church University’s Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research (SPEAR) into mass participation legacies after large scale sporting events, Professor Mike Weed questions whether the long term ambition for post Olympic sports participation will be achieved.

In response to the recently published London 2012 Mass Participation Legacy Plan, spearheaded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Sport England, Professor Weed says: “Worldwide evidence collected, collated and analysed by SPEAR, for the Department of Health, has shown that there are two phenomena that influence people when it comes to deciding whether to actively participate after watching large scale sporting events.

“The first is called a ‘demonstration effect’, in which people are inspired by elite sport, sports people and events to participate themselves. But this inspiration is not universal. A demonstration effect can only inspire those who have previously or now currently participate in sport to do so more. What it categorically does not do is have any affect whatsoever on those who have never participated in sport.

“The second is called the ‘festival effect’. Here an event like the 2012 Games can create a strong desire to feel part of things, to actively celebrate the Olympic and Paralympic festival. The festival effect targets the least active, who have little or no previous interest in sport, but who get swept along with the atmosphere and can be encourage to participate in active community events. But because of their lack of sporting interest, the competitive aspects of sport do not motivate them to become involved.

“The recent London 2012 Mass Participation Legacy Plan announced by the Government to develop a sporting legacy from the London 2012 Games is under the banner ‘Places People Play’. Here £90million of Lottery money will go to investing in upgrading local facilities, maintaining and recovering playing fields and constructing new ‘iconic’ facilities. However, as our research shows it is unlikely to inspire people who have never participated in competitive sport to make the change.

“The plan is likely to provide a lasting legacy for sport. Undoubtedly new facilities and fields are likely to be well used, but they will mostly provide for people who already participate in sport, to do so a little more in a better environment.  It is unlikely to encourage people who don’t already play sport to do so.

“Providing facilities for people who already play to play more may be a legitimate policy goal, but we should be clear that people playing more often is not the same as more people playing.”

Professor Mike Weed has written a paper entitled: The London 2012 Mass Participation Legacy Plan - Now we know WHAT and WHY, but no one is telling us HOW! It can be viewed at 




Notes to Editor

Research carried out by SPEAR includes:


Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research (SPEAR)

The Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research (SPEAR) is a cross-departmental and cross-faculty research centre at Canterbury Christ Church University. It conducts theoretically informed critical analyses in sport, physical education, physical activity and leisure.  It has funding from a range of public, private and not-for-profit organizations.

SPEAR’s recent work has included research on Olympic physical activity and sport legacy; on school sport and young people for the Youth Sport Trust and StreetGames, and on the impact of city centre big screens for the NHS.

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With nearly 18,000 students, and five campuses across Kent, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional expertise.

  • As a leading provider of teaching and health care courses we have produced nearly 3,500 health and social care professionals and 7,000 teachers in the last five years.
  • Over 90 per cent of our graduates gain employment in the first six months after graduating.
  • Along with over a thousand undergraduate, postgraduate and professional training courses on offer, we are also home to world-leading and internationally recognised research in Education, History, Music and Sports Related Studies.
  • Canterbury Christ Church University was founded in 1962 by the Church of England as a teacher training college.

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Jeanette Earl
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